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Cyber Lawyer Pavan Duggal Calls For Legal Awareness Among India's Youth

Cybercrimes and cybersecurity breaches are going to be lifelong companions. In today's dynamic yet volatile cyberspace , the responsibility to protect ourselves lies on us. Taking part in digital activities consciously with the right knowledge of law has to be the mantra for enjoying a seamless digital life says Dr Pavan Duggal

Photo Credit : Pavan Duggal | BW Legal World


India’s youth is at the forefront when it comes to Internet adoption and consumption. To give you some perspective, the country has approximately 624 million active internet users and 54 percent of this user base lies between the age bracket of 20-39. While the number keeps increasing every year, the corresponding digital literacy and necessary cyber awareness is far from what is desirable. 

Flourishing cyberspace a breeding ground for cyber crimes

While the use of the Internet has brought tremendous opportunities for young India, there is no denying that it has opened the flood gates for potential abuse, cybercrimes, fake news and new forms of digital addiction. In 2020 the world lost more than $6 trillion courtesy of cybercrimes and cyber security breaches and in 2021 the losses have shot up to $8 trillion. Looking at the alarming upward trajectory, analysts have projected a loose count of losses amounting to more than $10.5 trillion by 2025.

With the worrying increase in cybercrimes, where are we going as a generation meandering in cyberspace?

Cyberbullying a big problem for youngsters

 News reports are replete with unfortunate cases of cybercrimes.  For instance, the very commonly seen phenomenon of cyberbullying has opened up a pandora’s box of social and phycological issues prevailing in the digital culture today.

And more often than not, the adolescents and India’s youth are facing the long end of the stick. The first step in making today’s youth digitally aware and conscious is to take the stock of the alarming trends dominating the use of the internet among India’s youngsters. According to a recent survey, 22.4 % of young respondents aged between 13-18 were vulnerable to cyberbullying. This leads to an increased risk of suicides among impressionable youngsters.

Noted cyber lawyer Dr Pavan Duggal gives us a flavour of the grim reality. 1 out of 5 children experiences cyberbullying as per their parents. 

We have seen cases where youth who are victims of cyberbullying are twice as likely to attempt suicide and self-harm, he says.

Youngsters are getting consumed by the Internet. They are studying from home and doing a lot of other activities without understanding the legal ramifications. The wrong notion of anonymity on the internet has given them a false sense of freedom. The problematic belief has led to the growing number of cyberstalking and harassment cases in India. 

The great Indian vomiting revolution

Indians are vomiting data about their personal, professional social lives without understanding the legal ramifications of the same. Be it their social media accounts, online classes or just downloading an innocuously simple-looking app, personal data; both social and professional, is everywhere on the Internet. And the new normal courtesy Covid 19 has accelerated the phenomenon of living behind a dense and stronger digital footprint than ever before.  

Calling it the great Indian vomiting revolution, Dr Duggal says, 

Indian youngsters are those segments of the population who are most engaged in this formative evolution. On top of it, youngsters are not even understanding that they have a particular role in this ecosystem. No wonder because they are completely negligent in adhering to cybersecurity practices and become vulnerable to cyber frauds as a consequence of their negligence.

Perils of fake news for the WhatsApp generation

Everything you do on the internet should be seen as part of a larger picture and can lead to legal and societal ramifications. To give some context, a simple-looking WhatsApp message laced with communal color can go viral all of a sudden and gaslight communal tensions and tragic cases of mob lynching, Case in point; Riots in Muzaffarpur.

A couple of days back, the news mills on WhatsApp university were actively paying their tributes to singer Lata Mangeshkar.  There were WhatsApp forwards doing the rounds claiming that the veteran Bollywood singer has succumbed to Covid. The disturbing news got viral to such an extent that Doctors treating her had to jump in to clarify that she is recovering.

That’s the magnitude of ruckus fake news can cause. So, the next time, you get an unverified piece of information, exercise caution and diligence before hitting the forward icon.

The (not so) smart devices

The emerging trends on the internet can look straight out of sci-fi movies. Be it the fascinating AI and IoT ecosystem or the blockchain evolution, treading with caution and exercising diligence has to be the mantra.

Talking specifically on IoT and new age smart devices, Dr Pavan Duggal says,

Youngsters need to realise that these devices are recording whatever you're saying, and then that's getting transmitted and is being used for profiling you today, youngsters believe facial recognition is a part of our lives. Yes, it is. But you have to be awfully careful to find out where your data of facial recognition is going out and how it's going to be accessed by state and non-state actors.

The price for Metaverse is you

 Metaverse is another trend that is catching the fancy of India’s youth. To be fair, the future iteration of the internet based on 3D modeling and digital avatars does seem promising and enticing. But does it come with a price?

What if social media companies use your personal data for the metaverse. Well, the likelihood of it happening seems on the cards.

Recently, Facebook had said it's deleting million-plus images that it has saved but it's not telling you that it's not deleting the particular algorithm and these billion-plus images are going to be extensively used for the metaverse.

Dr Duggal spills the beans while advocating the pressing need for increased cyber awareness and digital literacy around new-age technology. 

Youngsters need to realise that behind the sexy glee of Metaverse lies the hunger of Metaverse stakeholders for your data, and therefore there is going to be huge impact on your privacy, he says.

So, what’s the way ahead for navigating your way in cyberspace

For starters, youngsters need to be alive to the fact that adopting cyberspace is like jumping into a sea where there are all kinds of cyber threats waiting to attack them. Becoming mindful and committing to using technology consciously will lead to cyber awareness and digital literacy.  

Realise that every activity that you do online can have legal consequences

 Your digital life in the virtual world is not as free as it appears to be. The digital footprints that you leave behind with the click of a button are potential fodder for cybercriminals to thrive. When Covid forced the world towards lockdown culture, the crippling anxiety of the people while adjusting to the new normal triggered a host of never seen before cyber scams. From investment opportunities to crowdfunding in the name of health, cybercriminals used your personal data, invaded people’s privacy and attacked the most basic of human needs, trigger points and insecurities.

In such an atmosphere, ignorance of the law has no longer remained an option for the layman or a naïve youngster. Dr Duggal drives the point home with elan. He says,

Every activity that you do in the digital ecosystem in India is covered under the Indian Information Technology Act 2000. Don't tell me that you are not a lawyer and you don't need to know about cyber law. If you're using any of the seven raw materials in the digital ecosystem. That means if you use computers, computer systems, the printer networks, computer resources, communication devices, as well as data and information in electronic form, the Indian cyber law applies to you.

Know your cyber law

Before scrolling  below, answer the following basic questions

Have you casually used a friend’s password for the sake of convenience?

Have you downloaded pirated movies from Telegram and other cloud-based Apps?

Have you watched or browsed through pron websites?

These may seem like regular and routine activities for a teenager but indulging in these cyber activities can prove to be a recipe inviting legal trouble and years of jail in some circumstances. Well, knowing the law of the land forms a large part of bringing cyber awareness among youngsters. And to a large extent, youth has been found wanting when it comes to the most basic knowledge of cyber law. And Internet which appears to be freely accessible at the fingertips is something that youngsters take for granted. Well, the power that digital freedom and access brings needs to be handled with an equal dose of responsibility, awareness and informed choices.

Adopt Cyber Security and Cyber Resilience As A Way Of Life

Every 11 seconds an entity is becoming vulnerable to a ransomware attack. This is the propensity at which cybersecurity breaches are happening around the world.

Against this backdrop, how do we achieve basic digital literacy among the youth of India? While India still awaits a law on cyber security, the first step forward to creating an ecosystem of awareness should start. Conscious efforts to safeguard oneself from security breaches need to be ingrained as part of our daily routine and digital etiquettes.

Always start with basics. Make sure the software that you use is legit. Install and update antivirus and firewall programs. Just a simple step to disable the internet as soon as you notice any suspicious activity can prevent further damage. and if cyber security or privacy breach happens, inform the enforcement agencies as quickly as possible. 

While sharing his experiences of spearheading capacity-building programs for the youth and members of the enforcement agencies Dr Duggal stresses on the need to adopt cyber security and cyber resilience as a way of life.

Let's not be irresponsible use of our devices or data and expect the government to come in once you become a victim of cyber security breaches. Let's realise that we are now already waking up in the data economy where the data is the new oil of the data economy. And we have to be very conscious of how we generate, deal and process such data.

Inculcating and constantly upskilling the cyber security awareness quotient may not be enough. Becoming adequately resourceful to respond to cyber-attacks and restoring a state of normalcy as swiftly as possible becomes part of the equation too. 

As Dr Pavan Duggal rightly says, cybercrimes and cybersecurity breaches are going to be lifelong companions. In today's  dynamic yet volatile cyberspace , the responsibility to protect ourselves lies on us. Taking part in digital activities consciously with the right knowledge of law has to be the mantra for enjoying a seamless digital life, he adds.